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A close call for the Blues

March 05, 1962
March 05, 1962

Table of Contents
March 5, 1962

Boating
Time Of Promise
Yesterday
Payin' Hobby
Bridge
Motor Sports
Bowling
Basketball
Part II: The Ways Of Life At The Country Club
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Departments

A close call for the Blues

In bridge, as in other sports, eager youth presses hard on aging champion, and the end of Italy's long reign is now in sight

Italy's superb Blue Team won its fifth successive World Contract Bridge Championship in New York last week, but the Blues almost faded white before victory finally was secured. The formidable sixsome headed by Carl 'Albertos Perroux had little trouble with the Argentines, battering them 420-308, or with the British, whom they beat almost as badly, 365-286. But John Gerber's North Americans made it clear that Italy's long dominion over the bridge tables is coming to an end, and that end may come as soon as next year. Gerber's young team put up a tenacious battle before losing 331-305, and the match was even closer than the score would indicate.

This is an article from the March 5, 1962 issue Original Layout

Gerber's comparatively inexperienced internationals obviously were jittery at the start when, largely through bad luck on slam bids, they fell 64 International Match Points behind Louis Tarlo's British team. But immediately after this they settled down to business, taking a conclusive lead in their first match with Argentina.

Next day they opened against Italy with a 110-to-78 barrage that alarmed the perennial champions. However, in the second session with Britain, the North Americans lost another 11 IMPs, and Johnny Gerber began to think about benching his two youngest players, Mervin Key and Ron Von der Porten. When Italy bounced back with a 71-32 rally on the first 14 deals of their second session against the Americans, Gerber decided to put this plan into operation at once. At first the move seemed to backfire as Italy continued to pile up points and ended the day with a 48-point advantage. But the wisdom of Gerber's move was to pay off in a big way later.

The most successful captain of an earlier era, P. Hal Sims, had promulgated an edict for his famous Four Horsemen, "Never bid a grand slam." Both the American and British captains might profitably have issued a similar order to their squads, but after a number of unsuccessful attempts to earn the large bonus for bridge's biggest bid, Britain finally brought one home as a result of a fine auction by Alan Truscott and Anthony Priday on the deal shown at right.

In the closed room, where the deal was played first, a North American pair sat North-South, and the bidding had gone:

EAST
(Rose)

PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Murray)

2 [Club]
3 N.T.
PASS

WEST
(Gardener)

PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Coon)

2 [Diamond]
6 N.T.

Coon's response of two diamonds to the forcing artificial bid of two clubs announced a hand that might be extremely weak. Murray chose his rebid with the idea of playing a no-trump contract from the "right" side of the table—that is, with the lead coming up to one of his red ace-queens rather than through them, as might happen if North were to respond two no trump to a rebid of two spades.

A club or a spade opening might have made declarer guess which finesse to take for an overtrick. However West opened the diamond 4, and when East put up the king, declarer had 13 top tricks regardless of the spade break.

A capacity audience in the theater then watched the English pair bid the hand this way on Bridge-O-Rama:

EAST
(Von der Porten)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Truscott)

2 [Club]
2 [Spade]
3 N.T.
6 [Club]
PASS

WEST
(Mathe)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Priday)

2 [Diamond]
3 [Spade]
4 [Club]
7 [Spade]

Superficially, it might appear that North was guessing that his partner held all four aces, but in fact the bidding sequence clearly revealed South's hand. The two-club opening was artificial and showed a powerful hand. Two spades showed at least a five-card suit. Three no trump showed double stoppers in the unbid suits. The jump to six clubs showed a 5-4-2-2 distribution and, looking at the king-queen of spades in his own hand, Priday could be sure that his partner could not have the indicated distribution for three no trump and the leap to six clubs without a hand that included all the aces. This brought the top-card trick count up to 12 and a sure 13th must be added by a heart ruff in dummy, making the grand slam in spades superior to one in clubs.

In fact, against a trump opening, the heart ruff in dummy relieved declarer of any need to guess a red-suit finesse, and the British team gained 13 IMPs. Those 13 IMPs proved a prophetic figure—though they were turned the other way round when the match was over. Before that happened, however, Priday had to make one more vital decision on the very last deal of the match, shown at right.

The North American team was 10 IMPs ahead with only this hand remaining, and the audience knew that the bidding in the closed room had been:

WEST
(Coon)

PASS
3 [Club]

NORTH
(Rose)

PASS
PASS

EAST
(Murray)

1 [Spade]
PASS

SOUTH
(Gardener)

PASS
PASS

Britain's Rose opened a heart, giving Coon time to discard a diamond on a top spade. Next he cashed the heart king and ruffed a heart. When the queen of clubs appeared on the first trump lead, Coon lost only two tricks.

Thus, the pressure on spectators was tremendous as they sat for five minutes while Priday thought over his final bid in this auction:

WEST
(Priday)

PASS
2 [Club]
?

NORHT
(Mathe)

PASS
3 [Heart]

EAST
(Truscott)

1 [Diamond]
PASS

SOUTH
(Nail)

1 [Heart]
PASS

At the commentator's table we were pointing out that if Priday bid three no trump, that contract could not be defeated as the cards lay and would be worth exactly 10 IMPs and a tie. So would a bid of five clubs if that contract was made—as no doubt it would be unless Mathe opened a diamond. But what if Mathe doubled a three-no-trump contract? Or a contract of four clubs? That would give Britain enough points to win the match.

Later I asked Priday what had gone through his mind during his protracted study. His answer will shed some light on what experts think about when, to the kibitzer, there is no apparent problem. Vulnerable against nonvulnerable opponents, West's hand seems to offer small promise of game facing a partner who could not find a rebid even though West had responded freely. But in the last hand of a match, caution must sometimes be cast to the winds by a team that estimates it is on the short end of the score. Tony was mentally going over his scorecard and trying to figure whether it was likely that he and Truscott had gained enough to put the British ahead. "If I had decided to bid," he added, "of course I should have had a shot at three no trumps."

Audience tension was terrific until word finally came: "West passes." The pent-up pressure burst with a roar. Nail could afford to go down three tricks without losing points on the board. In fact, he went down only one and North America gained 3 IMPs to win by 13.

In the final 48 deals against England, the Americans had bounced back from a 61-IMP deficit. By comparison, the 17-IMP deficit they would carry into the last 48 deals against Italy on the final day of play seemed insignificant. It looked as if the team had finally found itself, and in the Italian camp one could sense the same feeling of uncertainty that had prevailed when the American team took a 32-point lead in the first 48 boards they played.

But in the final set of boards, it was the Americans who started off badly, doubling two less-than-game contracts which the Italians made for big gains. The Americans fought back gamely. Having dropped behind by 48 points with only 34 deals remaining, they recovered 10 in the next 14 deals and 12 more in the last 20, thanks largely to a 19-point pickup on a deal (next column) that provoked the week's liveliest cheering from the Bridge-O-Rama audience.

The audience knew that when this deal was first played with Eugenio Chiaradia as declarer, sitting South, at a mere five-diamond contract, he had gone down one. Ruffing the spade opening, he had led the king of clubs and discarded when East played low. Coon won with the ace and shifted to a trump. Another trump lead left dummy with only one trump and forced Chiaradia to try to avoid a heart loser. He played to drop the queen, without success.

So the spectators groaned when they heard the American North-South pair produce the following auction:

WEST
(Belladonna)

PASS
4 [Spade]
DBL.

NORTH
(Nail)

PASS
6 [Diamond]
PASS

EAST
(Avarelli)

1 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Mathe)

2 [Diamond]
PASS
PASS

West's opening lead of the spade 3 was trumped in dummy, and Mathe started off as Chiaradia had, leading the king of clubs. But when East played low, the Californian ruffed, and the American rooters took hope. If perfectly played, the slam could be made.

Mathe ruffed three more spades, returning to his own hand each time by trumping clubs. Then dummy led a low heart and declarer successfully finessed the jack. After that it was easy. The queen of diamonds forced out East's ace, East's last spade was trumped, and Mathe still had one more diamond with which to extract Avarelli's last trump. The ace-king of hearts won the last two tricks and brought home a score of 1,540 to add to the 100 gained at the other table.

After that, however, the hands turned small and flat, leaving no chance for the kind of swings the Americans needed. Italy held 26 points of her lead to keep the Bermuda Bowl. In a fine old sporting tradition, we Americans will wait till next year.

ILLUSTRATIONDIMINUTIVE BRITISH CAPTAIN LOUIS TARLO COACHES TEAM BETWEEN SESSIONS AS HIS WIFE STANDS DISCREETLY APART

Both sides vulnerable East dealer

NORTH

[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

WEST

[7 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[8 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[3 of Clubs]

SOUTH

[Ace of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

EAST

[Jack of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[10 of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]

East-West vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[10 of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

WEST

[Queen of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[10 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

SOUTH

[9 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]

EAST

[Ace of Spades]
[King of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[9 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]

Both sides vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

[— of Spades][King of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]

WEST

[King of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[10 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[7 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

SOUTH

[Jack of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

[— of Clubs]

EAST

[Ace of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[Jack of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]